Sometimes wolves go off on their own. Perhaps they just get tired of being in the pack and want some solitude. Earlier this morning the pack had been feeding on an elk cow they brought down on the Cascade Creek drainage here in Yellowstone a few days ago, and there was the usual melee of pushing and shoving, snarling and snapping as all the of the pack members fought to get their share. The kill was fresh and everyone ate their fill. Even the youngest were stuffed. It wasn’t long until the carcass was reduced to a pile of bones and wolf bellies were bulging.
The wolves began to drift apart, singly and in pairs. The younger wolves chased each other and played, burning off the energy that is a constant state for them. The older ones moved off to find a spot to curl up and sleep. This wolf, not ready to sleep and not in the mood to play with the younger wolves, began to prowl around the area checking for intruders. A grizzly had been in on the kill the night before and the pack was nervous as they fed. Grizzlies don’t pose much of a threat to the wolves as they can maneuver away from them and even chase the grizzly off if they’re determined enough. But they don’t want the confrontation if they can avoid it.
The valley this black wolf is looking into is prime grizzly country. It’s deep and full of brush, trees and large boulders, just the place a well fed bear would hole up. The wolf’s body language says he’s not alarmed or at least hasn’t caught any scent from the bear yet but he’s carefully watching for the slightest movement. Magpies lifting, brush moving when there’s no wind, any telltale signs that the grizzly has decided to come back and feed again. All appears to be quiet so he may lie down here to keep watch, even catch a little nap himself.
Quiet times like this are rare in the wolves life. Carefully looking into the darkness at the bottom of the ravine and feeling at ease, it’s time for a rest. Soon enough it’ll be time to hunt again.